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Living with diabetes
in humanitarian crises

BBC StoryWorks and the NCD Alliance launched a series called Facing Forward, which tells the stories of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through the eyes of the people living with chronic NCDs and the organisations working to provide relief or otherwise help them.

The documentary in the series featuring the work of Partnering for Change speaks to the difficulty of diabetes care in humanitarian settings.

Inside Lebanon: Abdel’s story

Abdel El Salam Othman has diabetes and requires continuous insulin treatment. He left his home and village in Syria with his family when it was bombed and now lives as a refugee in Tripoli, Lebanon. He received treatment at a Red Cross clinic and does what he can to stick to the healthy-living advice for people living with type 2 diabetes. Doing so, however, is not easy in Lebanon, which is affected by multiple humanitarian and economic crises.

One-quarter of the total population of Lebanon are refugees, and the country is experiencing an economic crisis compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 Beirut blast. This humanitarian and economic crisis has strained the health system, and accessing insulin and other life-saving medications for chronic conditions is often complicated. Clinics do not always have insulin available; buying it at the pharmacy is expensive. Interrupting the treatment, however, is dangerous and can quickly lead to complications and become life-threatening.

In humanitarian crises, scores of people living with diabetes or other NCDs encounter similar challenges. In Lebanon alone, 50% of households report at least one family member living with an NCD. The stress associated with accessing NCD care in humanitarian contexts has negative implications for patients’ mental health and compounds the health crisis. Addressing the growing problem of NCD care for people living in humanitarian crises is urgent.

Watch the BBC Storyworks video